Major General Leo V. Williams III (USMC, RET)
One of the biggest benefits of serving in the United States military is the opportunity to continually grow, both professionally and personally, while serving your country. Multiple ongoing educational options – both on-duty and off-duty – are available across all branches of the service and for enlisted personnel, warrant officers, and commissioned officers. My recommendation: Take full advantage of these resources. If you continue your education, you will allow yourself more options than if you do not. Automatically, you see doors opening that were not available before you went on that journey to higher learning.
While I had the honor and benefit of attending the United States Naval Academy before being commissioned as an officer in the Marine Corps, not everyone has been afforded this same opportunity. Minorities are underserved, with fewer than 10% of minority enlisted personnel having a bachelor’s degree. Education can change the course of your career.
More Education Choices
Education options have evolved with technology, and many of today’s online programs allow you to continue your education regardless of where you are stationed (you don’t risk losing credits if you are attending in-person and need to transfer); some even permit you to put your studies on hold if your duty assignment does not allow for internet access or demands 100% of your time. This flexibility permits learners to find a school that adapts to their learning style, choosing the accredited school they would like to attend.
For traditionally underserved populations, these accredited schools may include minority serving institutions (MSIs) and Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), schools that were among the first to use adaptive learning strategies to meet students where they are. The significance of HBCUs is very personal for me. A number of my friends, counterparts, associates who are also African American, Asian, Latino, have taken advantage of educational opportunities at HBCUs and have gone on to phenomenal heights. It is an invitation to improve your life. Military Learners Now (www.militarylearnersnow.com) has compacts to connect personnel with HBCUs and MSIs that offer degree and certification programs under each school’s DoD Memorandum of Understanding.
There is also a new understanding that learning is more than cracking a textbook. Many of these colleges and universities are now offering flexible degree programs and giving students up to 75% credit toward their degree based on prior learning, including credits earned at other schools and on-the-job skills acquired. Credit for prior learning puts obtaining that degree much closer to reality.
“It’s an invitation to improve your life, to improve your family’s life.” ~Leo V. Williams III
Active Duty & Reserve Personnel
Pursuing a degree or certifications during your free time while on active or reserve duty can position you for growth within your military career or give you a competitive advantage when you leave the service. Qualified Active and Reserve duty personnel can access education benefits through the Department of Defense Voluntary Education Program (DoD VEP), including Tuition Assistance (TA) and Credentialing Assistance (CA) programs, the GI-Bill, and the Montgomery GI-Bill, among other sources. The TA and CA programs are designed specifically for active duty personnel, while the GI-Bill offers continued support following discharge from the service. (Learn more about educational options at www.usa.gov/education-military-veterans.) Consider using TA/CA benefits first and saving the GI-Bill benefits to continue your education. Participating schools must be accredited and have a Department of Defense Voluntary Education Partnership Memoranda of Understanding (DoD VEP MOU).
Spouses and Dependents
Some of the education benefits offered to the service member also cover their spouse and dependents. This includes the TA and CA programs and portions of the GI-Bill. Investigate the options available and make education a family affair.
While benefits from the TA and CA programs end at the time of discharge from the military, various GI-Bills and other services are still available to qualified veterans. I strongly recommend talking with an advisor/counselor during the discharge process to make certain you understand all the benefits available to you and/or your spouse and dependents and note any deadlines for using these benefits. You will never regret continuing to educate yourself.
About Leo V. Williams III (USMC, Ret)
Leo Williams graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1970 and was commissioned in the United States Marine Corps. Following eight years in the Active Component of the Marine Corps, he transferred to the Marine Corps Reserve. He was promoted to Major General in 2001. Williams’ general officer assignments included: Commanding General, 4th Force Service Support Group, Marine Forces Reserve; Commanding General, Marine Corps Reserve Support Command; Vice Director, Joint Experimentation (J9), U.S. Joint Forces Command; and, Deputy Commanding General, Marine Corps Combat Development Command.
Williams’ civilian career began at Ford Motor Company, where he rose to become the Brand Manager for Ford F-150 pickup trucks and all Ford Division SUVs. He retired from Ford in 2003 and became Executive Vice President of health foods manufacturer Medifast, Inc., and CEO, then Chairman of its wholly owned subsidiary, Take Shape for Life, Inc. Under his leadership over eight years, sales at Take Shape for Life grew from $12M to $160M. He retired from this company in 2012.
Williams has served on the Department of Defense Reserve Forces Policy Board and was a Commissioner for the Military Leadership Diversity Commission, among other roles. He currently consults with Military Learners Now. Williams holds an MBA from Southern Illinois University.
“You’ve served God and Country. It’s time to serve yourself and your family.” ~Leo V. Williams III
What makes MLN unique?
- Embedded Artificial Intelligence in the online classroom encourages students to push limits and ask big questions that will help solve difficult issues.
- Adaptive learning allows each person to spend more time with their families, at a pace which works best for them. Educational institutions that employed an adaptive learning environment registered a 15% rise in the students who earned A’s and B’s1.
- Flexible degree programs align with Military Occupation Codes, making it easier for personnel to build a degree that works specifically for them.
- MLN assigns each individual a Personal MLN Advisor to walk them through the entire online college process.
1 Two studies on effect of ALEKS on nearly 12K students at two public institutions (McGraw-Hill)